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Surveillance revelations take centre stage at global Internet summit

Activists went head to head with government representatives as mass surveillance dominated discussions at the 2013 Internet Governance forum. Mike Harris reports.

Last year's Internet Governance Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan proved controversial due to the choice of host. This year's event, in Bali, Indonesia was bound to be contentious, after Edward Snowden's leaks on the US's PRISM programme. PRISM and TEMPORA (the UK system of mass surveillance) were a lightning rod for general discontent from activists who feel an increasing sense of ill ease over the state of internet freedom. Many of the sessions were bad-tempered affairs with civil society rounding on the perceived complacency of government officials from democracies who refused to state their opposition to mass state surveillance in clear enough terms.

At an event hosted by the Global Network Initiative, Index on Censorship, and Pakistan's Centre for Social and Policy Analysis, a US government official was heckled by the audience when he attempted to justify PRISM as an anti-terrorism measure. Of particular concern for delegates was a sense that PRISM is now being used by less democratic and authoritarian states to justify their own surveillance systems. The Chinese were quick to point out the 'double standards' of the US at this workshop, following it with appalling doublespeak to gloss over their poor domestic record on human rights violations. A point I challenged them on in no uncertain terms.

Read the full story on the Index on Censorship site.


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